Nunc dimittis

March 31, 2019

Dominick Argento, 91, died February 20. Born October 27, 1927, he grew up in York, Pennsylvania. After high school graduation, he was drafted into the United States Army and served as a cryptographer. Following World War II, he entered the Peabody Conservatory, Baltimore, Maryland, to study piano, but switched to composition, earning a bachelor’s degree in 1951 and a master’s degree in 1953. He would eventually earn a doctoral degree from Eastman School of Music, Rochester, New York. The recipient of Fulbright and Guggenheim fellowships, Argento studied in Italy with Luigi Dallapiccola.

In 1958, he and his wife, Carolyn Bailey, moved to Minneapolis, where he began teaching composition and theory at the University of Minnesota. He soon began receiving numerous commissions, particularly for opera. Among his organ works was Prelude for Easter Dawning.

In the 1970s, Argento began composing choral works, particularly for the choir of Plymouth Congregational Church of Minneapolis. He would be the recipient of commissions for choral music by Plymouth Church, the Cathedral of St. Mark, Minneapolis, the Buffalo Schola Cantorum, Harvard and Yale glee clubs, and other organizations. After retirement from the University of Minnesota in 1997, he was named professor emeritus, and continued to live in Minneapolis.

David Gifford, 97, of Northampton, Massachusetts, died January 26. He was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on October 16, 1921, and spent his childhood in Bedford and Cambridge. He attended the Longy School of Music, Cambridge, where he studied organ with E. Power Biggs. After serving in World War II as a Military Police Escort Guide, United States Army, Gifford attended Harvard University where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in music.

In 1949 he married Irene Davidson, and they moved to the Oberlin, Ohio, where he studied at Oberlin Conservatory of Music, earning a Master of Music degree. After graduation, the Giffords returned to Massachusetts and settled in Hingham. He became organist and music director at the Old Ship Church, Hingham, and worked as a pipe maker and voicer at Aeolian-Skinner Organ Company, Boston.

He eventually studied for an education degree at Lesley College and taught at Walter F. Dearborn School, Cambridge, and at the Gifford School, founded by his mother, Margaret Gifford, in Weston, Massachusetts. Upon leaving teaching, he returned to organbuilding and became a pipe maker and reed voicer for C. B. Fisk, Inc., Gloucester, Massachusetts, and served as organist at Newburyport Presbyterian Church. After retirement, the Giffords moved to Charlemont, Massachusetts, and David Gifford became organist for St. John’s Episcopal Church in Ashfield, Massachusetts. After his wife’s death in 1999, he moved to Cummington, Massachusetts, and was organist at the Village Congregational Church. Eventually Gifford retired from active organ playing and moved to Williamsburg and then to Northampton, Massachusetts.

David Gifford is survived by his son Ralph Gifford and wife Amy of Westwood, New Jersey, and daughter Anne Dodge and husband Edward of Barkhamsted, Connecticut. A memorial service was held February 16 at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Ashfield. Memorial contributions may be made to The Gifford School, 177 Boston Post Rd., Weston, MA 02493.

Robert “Robbie” Anthony Giroir, Jr., 59, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, died December 23, 2018, after a brief illness. He earned a Bachelor of Music degree in music education from Louisiana State University and in 1985 became organist and director of music at St. Joseph Catholic Cathedral, Baton Rouge, as well as director of choral studies at Baton Rouge Magnet High School.

During Giroir’s tenure, the choirs at the school consistently earned superior ratings at district and state choral assessments. In the last 15 years, choirs under his direction performed in England, Italy, Spain, Ireland, Czech Republic, Austria, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, France, and Vatican City. He was named “Music Teacher of the Year” by the Baton Rouge Symphony League for 2010–2011. As director of music and organist at St. Joseph Cathedral, he oversaw the acquisition of the Reuter organ in 1993 as part of the parish’s bicentennial.

His funeral Mass was celebrated at St. Joseph Cathedral on December 27 and was televised live throughout the Diocese of Baton Rouge. His best friend and protégé, Ryan Hebert of the University of Tampa, accompanied the funeral. Members of the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra provided a chamber ensemble. The choirs of the cathedral and Baton Rouge Magnet High School sang, assisted by alumni of both groups, comprising more than 130 choristers in all.

Robert Anthony Giroir, Jr., is survived by his mother, Myrtis Leblanc Giroir; sister and brother-in-law, Danette and Ronald Legendre; and nephews with their wives and children, Ladd, Abby, and Landon Legendre, and Brant, Brittney, and Harper Jane Legendre.

Noel Rawsthorne, 89, died January 28. Born December 24, 1929, he studied with Harold Dawber at Royal Manchester College of Music (now Royal Northern College of Music), after which he studied with Fernando Germani in Italy and Marcel Dupré in France.

Rawsthorne was organist of Liverpool Cathedral, UK, from 1955 until 1980, when he was named organist emeritus. From 1980 until 1984 he was also organist of St. George’s Hall, Liverpool. As a recitalist, he performed throughout the UK, Europe, and the former Soviet Republic. In 1994, the University of Liverpool awarded him an honorary doctorate of music. A memorial service was held March 3 at the cathedral of Liverpool.